Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes was steadfast when he talked to the media on Thursday: if you want any of the players the team may trade, you will have to pay the price they want.
With Ben Chiarot the main trade piece that needed to be dealt prior to Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline, Hughes has played the rest of his cards close to his vest, and understandably so. It’s not in your best interest to tell buyers that you will take whatever offer is the best. The rookie general manager has said that he’s perfectly fine holding on to all of his players unless other teams come up to what he wants.
On Saturday, those who may be traded had strong games in their final opportunity to play prior to Monday’s deadline.
Artturi Lehkonen had an assist, three shots on goal, and played over 17 minutes. Joel Armia scored a power play goal, and led the team with six shots on goal, in a game that showed what made him such a key player in the postseason. Brett Kulak scored a goal on a great individual effort, and played over 20 minutes. Jake Allen, who may be enticing to a team that needs goaltending, made 29 saves in the win.
If those players are to be traded, they showed other teams what they could bring, and could have made the decision on whether to make a better offer easier. The last few days of the trade season are often a staring contest with the pendulum between how badly a team wants to trade a player swinging against how badly the the acquiring team wants them.
Despite initial reports that it was a buyer’s market, the early returns are that it might actually be a seller’s market. Players with term, or who will be extended are getting high returns, and as we get closer to the deadline, desperation from teams who haven’t made a move might raise the stakes even more.
Hughes is in a good position. The team’s recent stretch has shown that the team’s culture is good, and won’t require a full fire sale. Players with term, which the Canadiens have several, are also more likely to move in the summer. Even if there aren’t any other significant moves in the next day it doesn’t mean that they won’t happen at all.
After Saturday’s game, and after some significant moves by other contenders, maybe opposing teams make the extra push because their desire has increased.